NEVER ESCAPING MY LITTLE TOWN

I was 12 years old when singer Paul Simon recorded the song My Little Town. I could not afford to buy the album it was on, so instead I immediately purchased the much cheaper 45rpm single. I brought it home and played it over and over and over until my older sister barged into my room yelling if she ‘heard that damn song echoing through her bedroom wall one more time, she was going to smash my record into a zillion pieces’.  I believed her. She had experience. There was an oft repeated family story of a very little Ellen and her twin brother Arthur using Mom’s old 78rpm records as Frisbees against the basement wall, loudly laughing with glee as shellac shards exploded everywhere.  Mom still bemoans the loss of her favorite Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Andrew Sister’s records at the hands of her heedless children. I was already too attached to my new record to allow it to meet the same demise.

Growing up, there always seemed to be music in our house. In between weather and traffic reports on the hour, Mom would sing along to the staticy radio that sat atop the refrigerator playing the soft music she grew up with.  Dad occasionally rattled the windows blasting his Beethoven albums on Sunday mornings. Ellen taught herself guitar and banjo. Sam’s ability to play trumpet got him assigned to the Stateside Army band instead of Vietnam. Arthur owned some novelty records by Soupy Sales and Lou Monte that opened my eyes to that whole genre of music.  Neil and his then girlfriend, later wife, Martha would occasionally make their own attempt to stumble through the guitar chords to the songs on his favorite folkie records by Gordon Lightfoot, Jim and Ingrid Croce, Simon and Garfunkel and Tom Paxton.

I got hooked on Paul Simon through borrowing Neil’s old records. Simon’s songs, like my favorites by the Beatles, felt like tight little stories or poetry, full of creative imagery that somehow made more sense in my world then the heavier more ominous Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Springsteen stuff the other kids at school were into. My hormone-driven lonely preteen angst caused me to desperately relate to My Little Town, Simon’s homage to the part of Queens he was raised in, a mere 2 miles from where I lived.

Coming home after school
Riding my bike past the gates of the factories
My mom doing the laundry
Hanging out shirts in the dirty breeze

I did not have to close my eyes to picture what he was singing about, I just had to look out my window. Even at my age, the concept of waxing nostalgic about a place and time that really was not that great, made perfect sense to me. The only difference was, I had not escaped it yet. I was still living in the thick of it.

In my little town I never meant nothing
I was just my father’s son

Born during the last gasp of the Baby Boom, I was an oops child, dramatically younger than my siblings. That age gap caused me to feel disconnected from everyone else in our busy house and the aging of the neighborhood with less children and more old people, made me feel just as isolated outside too.  I felt like another nameless kid stuck growing up in a working-class neighborhood that’s only unique feature that differentiated it from the rest of New York City was its massive amounts of cemeteries.

Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town
Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town

Neil used to jokingly describe our neighborhood’s social strata as ‘upper poverty’ but even though New York in the early 1970s was bankrupt, dangerous and dirty, my world was never really that bleak. My unhappiness was self-inflicted. Luckily, time, age and distance have tinkered with my yellow edged memories to the point that for I really can’t say for certain if my childhood was good or bad. I can only confirm from Dad’s old Polaroids, that it was mine.

Earlier this year my brother Arthur described his childhood as crap but I’m not sure he really meant it or his recollections are just as muddy and blurred as mine.  Though I think we both agree that our ‘little town’ was a great place to move away from.

Recently, Arthur posted online a very heartfelt piece about growing up with no real belief or expectations of seeing much of the world beyond our local streets. Yet now his extra-paged passport is filled with stamps from his travels all around the world lecturing, writing and rubbing shoulders with performers and Nobel Prize winners. He escaped our ‘little town’ through his brains, attending MIT up in Boston. Actually, my whole family left. Sam was the first, moving to Connecticut. Neil went there too and then later made his way to Ohio, while Ellen headed to the warm south.

On the flight back from a recent trip to Iceland, I found myself flipping through my passport thinking about what my brother wrote. I too am sometimes amazed by how far from the old neighborhood my life has taken me. I broke away from ‘my little town’ before I started High School when my folks and I moved to Florida for Dad’s work. Summers, I spent visiting my adult siblings. Suddenly I believed I could live anywhere and eventually I took a job where I traveled all over the country.

Some people are content to never leave the place they are born while others can’t wait to get away. I’m glad I left but I also realize I would not be the man I am, if I was not raised there. It is a part of me that continues to shape my views and opinions of everything. I’ve gone back to visit and from the outside some things have changed while others are the exact same. Last month I even found current photos of our old bedrooms on Zillow.

Although I might not have my own Wikipedia page like Arthur does, I still feel like I’ve taken the good from my past while moving beyond the constraints of ‘my little town’ to become more than just my Father’s son.

And after it rains there’s a rainbow
And all of the colors are black
It’s not that the colors aren’t there
It’s just imagination they lack
Everything’s the same back in my little town

My Little Town Sleeve

 

 

 

 

Posted in it is what it is | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

VALENTINE SWINE

So, the other night my wife and I were driving home from a pork party… Hold on there!!! I can hear you cackling all the way through the inter-webby net. Cool yer britches and calm down with the off-color jokes. The wife and I were attending a big old delicious highfalutin pig-eatin’ festival. Jeeez.

I’ll get back to the drive home part in a minute, but I should say there was a handful of sign-carrying protesters outside the event that even caused a traffic accident as we tried to pull into the parking lot. I guess some folks are pro piggy parties and others are anti-hoggy hoop-dee-doos. So, I’m sorry if attending offended any of my vegetarian, vegan and ardent PETA pals along with my friends who have followed a strict religious interpretation of Leviticus 11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8, Quran verse 173 and of course the whole Kosher gang at the ‘Gog. Please all, forgive me for I do loves me da bacon.

It all started with not wanting to deal with a Valentine’s Day dinner out at an overcrowded, understaffed, overwhelmed restaurant. We instead made a last-minute decision to skip the traditional crowded cafes and go to the Cochon555 event in the grand ballroom of the swanky Four Seasons Hotel. Because where else would you throw a big ole’ hog fete but at one of the ritziest joints in town. But don’t think about that wacky juxtaposition too long, it will hurt your head, like the unanswerable question ‘is a hot dog a sandwich’?

The Dallas Cochon555 was a sensational Swine-a-bration, a prodigious Pig-a-palloza, a marvelous Meati Gras, a perfect Pork-topia… sorry… Actually, it was this year’s kick-off to the multi-city decade-old chef competition to benefit and celebrate the few family farms still out there humanely raising wonderful heritage breed specialty hogs. Several top local chefs each prepared a handful of dishes that the crowd of several hundred sampled and voted on. There was also a sommelier slam and another competition for tequila drinks. So basically, we used Valentine’s Day as a good excuse to pig-out on a mess ‘o’ porcine products. I kept waiting to hear someone in the crowd use the term ‘My Porky Valentine’ but no one was that crazy.

After a wee bit of over-indulging in swine and wine, the wife and I discovered we were not the only ones with the idea to slip away from the noisy brouhaha to rest on the comfortable chairs out in the quiet lobby. As I’ve gotten older, I have slowed down a bit. Years ago, I would have been go go go, eat eat eat, drink drink drink and not taken a break. Certainly, I would not have skipped the tastings of a dozen premium scotch and bourbons. Hell, I didn’t even get to half the wines. True, I sampled most of the pork dishes but did not go back for seconds… too much. I mean, it is pork. But even though the three-hour event ended at 7:30, we were weary and barely made it through the final judging.

Afterwards on the drive home, instead of mushy Valentinery chatter, our conversation drifted to the evening’s reminders of the current limitations of our bodies. I don’t fight or ignore stuff like allergies or aging or any of the things we brought up that interrupt our fun. I’m more of the ‘it is what it is’ school of thought. Deal with it, move on and enjoy life as much as possible within the limits the world has thrown at me.

My wife’s philosophy about it is more all-encompassing to her entire life. In conversations like this, she is quick to say, “these things happen in my world.” It’s not a bad woe-is-me sort of thing, just an all-inclusive pragmatic view. Maybe its her stoic mid-west / Iowa roots, but she almost seems to expect something to be out of whack and never seems nonplussed at what, good or bad, befalls her.

On the drive, she used the example of the fender bender she had a few years back. It was not the usual accidental crunch. That would have been too common for her. No, she was slowly hit on an uncrowded street… by a kindly elderly man… driving an expensive Lexus SUV… pulling out of a retirement village… on his way to an optometrist appointment. You can’t make that stuff up. And that just seems to be the norm in her world. She looks at the aches and quirks her body and the passing years throw at her as the icing on her crazy cake of life.

Unfortunately, she has some food allergies that wreak havoc on her at un-menued festivals like that night’s pig-fest. I’m sympathetic, I have insect allergies that completely limit me anytime I step out the door. ‘It is what it is’. ‘These things happen in our world’. We both have ‘stuff’… lots of ‘stuff’, which makes us incredibly understanding about the other person’s ‘stuff’. I guess our mutual tolerance and respect of each other’s foibles is one of the many things that makes our relationship work. And as much as the chowing down on a mountain of pork was good, being reminded of how good my marriage is on Valentines really is the perfect gift.

20190105_104812

Posted in it is what it is | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

LOSING TOUCH WITH NUMBER ONE

I bought into it. I can’t say if I was brainwashed or hypnotized or Spock mind-melded or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I believed.

No, I was not blindly led by a random savior claiming to deliver me a ramification-less salvation, nor was I a cult member waiting for the spaceship hidden behind a comet to take me away.  I was not even under the spell of the Evil Wizard Glick and his brain-controlling Frodis plant. No ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, what I bought into hook line and sinker was even crazier. You see, I believed in music.

Okay, I still believe in the ‘power’ of music. How hearing a song can change your mood or instantly transport you back to a time or place. The right chorus of voices can uplift my soul and a sad cello can bring me to tears. There are songs that cause a stupid uncontrollable grin to appear on my face as I relive a first touch or kiss.  But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Let me explain.

I was a dorky loner as a little kid. I did not have a lot of friends, but I did have a LOT of hand me down records from my four older siblings. I spent way more hours than a small human should, listening to those 45 rpm records. When Mom would demand I go outside and play, I would hook up an extension cord and drag my record player outside to our city-sized concrete backyard. Then when I was around 7 years-old, I discovered radio. Portable transistor horrible sounding staticy AM WABC pop radio.

I listened intently to the big deep echoed voices talking not just to me but to an unknown number of others that, unlike the other kids in the neighborhood, might be just like me. It sounded so important. With great fanfare, they would announce which songs were moving up the charts to the coveted Number One spot.

Number One. I was never number one at anything. I was never picked early when kids where choosing sides for sports, my grades were middle of the road average, my favorite sports teams hadn’t won a championship in my lifetime, I had no hobbies I excelled at, hell I was even the last born of five kids. But I could follow a song inching up to Number One. I studied the charts like a bible.  I felt a part of something. Number One.  I bought and listened to that record which meant that I directly helped push that thing up the list.

In the entertainment section of our local Sunday newspaper they used to post a list of the top ten songs. As if they were some important statistic, each week I cut those out and saved them. Like watching an incredibly slow horse race, I would track the rise and fall of each song, rooting for the ones I liked to hit Number One. Then it all culminated in December for the countdown to the Number One song of the year!

One day while leafing through music magazines at the store, I stumbled across Billboard magazine. Billboard!?!  That’s who was credited and entrusted with the vital task of tracking the popular song rankings. Like the ring announcer at the end of a fight, those were the guys that officially declared who was Number One. I felt like an insider. I mean, come on I knew Billboard and one of my brother’s was an overnight DJ one day a week at his Junior College radio station. I was wayyyy inside.

What I did not know back when I was 9 years old in 1972, was the music industry was a well-oiled money-making machine. I was not following the equivalent of an Olympic race, I was following something like professional wrestling. A song did not rise to Number One based solely on its creative musical merits but through a carefully orchestrated expensively manipulated and highly controlled process. I was a sheep being blindly led, corralled and unbeknownst to me, spoon-fed exactly what they wanted me to listen to.

Once I eventually caught on, who was Number One suddenly became unimportant.  At the same time, FM radio was becoming more popular with its goal of being anti-hit record. That Top 40 chart was for suckers, for the masses that bought into what the Man was selling. If you were cool, there was a whole other thing going on. Album tracks, obscure stuff, oldies, jazz, blues… This was a whole new course of study. This was not remedial grammar school pop charts class 101. I was enrolling in the University Of Twentieth Century Modern Music.

By the time I was 12, I was devouring books about my favorite musicians or how blues and jazz combined to make rock n roll.  I became obsessed with The Beatles, Chuck Berry and all sorts of stuff beyond the old pop records from my siblings. And the stranger, weirder, more unusual and obscure, the more I loved it. Dr. Demento was my Moses leading me into the promised land.

Through High School and College, I started finally making real friends and I tortured them all with my eclectic tastes. I could discuss music with the best of them.  I dug deeper into roots music while keeping up with punk, disco, new wave and the birth of rap. My buddy Mike and I constantly trolled record stores for music but then something happened.

As with most folks, the real-world crept in. Work, family and lack of time juggled my priorities. Age created prospective and through older eyes things looked different. The importance of music in my life waned.  As less and less people cared, my knowledge of ‘who created what’ and ‘who influenced who’ diminished in value too. It’s pop culture, not world history. It has an expiration date with a depreciated need and worth.

Meanwhile, that money-making music industry I was talking about, well Grandpa Napster and its many internet babies killed that. Now everyone knows that Top 40 chart is nonsense and the manipulated music heroes of today are shadows of what they were. Disposable. Like tissues in box, there when you need it and easy to toss away because we all know there is another right behind it. There is no need to research or collect because it’s all online for anyone to stumble over anytime for free.

I still like to drape the background of my life with music. I still constantly look for something creative and different for listening and sharing. Music is still there… it’s just my needs and beliefs are different.

dan W RECORDS

DAN WITH FIRST RECORD COLLECTION

 

Posted in it is what it is | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

23 AND FLEE

My wife suggested I take one of those popular 23 And Me at home genetic ancestry tests but I’m afraid it will just tell me I’m 30% Eastern European and 70% Doofus. Since I’m already pretty sure of the results, it seems like wasted money. Although I guess there is always the chance of discovering I’m something like 3% Dystopian or Hekawi. I guess I could cheap-out and take a discount No-Brand Generic Genetic knock-off version of the test but I’d feel really stupid if it simply told me I’m from Earth.

In reality, I cannot complain about my Russian/Hungarian genes. Mom’s 89 and Dad is in his 90s, so assuming I don’t play in traffic, take up a daily two pack of cigarettes and crystal meth habit or get too cocky reaching east and west on a ladder, I will be around to torture y’all with my blog for a while longer.

Now that does not mean my family is not loaded with wacky genetic quirks. A couple of hours at any of our reunions would easily confirm that. But as annoying as they may be, I’ll take my lack of hair, occasional vertigo, warped world view and allergy to insects over the heavy-duty serious burdens some folks bizarrely tangled DNA saddles them with.

My minor stuff aside, the real nuisance that all the men in my family have had to deal with is our astoundingly bad vision. Somewhere in my muddled memories I recall hearing Dad could not follow his childhood dream of becoming a pilot or joining the Air Force because of his horrible eye sight. My inconveniences have not been quite as dramatic. Not able to read the clock when I wake up, the bridge of my nose getting cut up from being slapped in the face playing basketball, annoying smudges while trying to focus in a dark movie theater… My world got better 20 years ago when I got contact lens, but I clearly remember the day when Dad kept me out of my school in second grade to take me to the ‘City’ to get my first pair of eyeglasses.

When most people think of New York City, they picture the tall buildings and hustle bustle of Manhattan, not the blocks of endless houses and apartment buildings out in the boroughs where I grew up. My earliest memories of going into the ‘City’ were sitting backwards in the way back of our family’s early 1960’s big boat of a Buick station wagon.

Every few months all seven of us would pile into the car and head through Queens passed the long-ago demolished landmark red and white checker-boarded Maspeth Gas Holders, over the Williamsburg Bridge, through Manhattan’s then ghetto-ish Lower East Side, down Delancey and Chrystie Streets through the rough and tumbly Bowery, to Dad’s buddy’s second floor Mott St. restaurant in Chinatown. We would always park in the free street spots a few blocks away near the downtown courthouse at the foothills of the Brooklyn Bridge.

As a real little kid, aside from those family jaunts to the Joy Garden restaurant, I did not make it into the City much and I only remember once going with Dad alone. I was about 6 or 7 years old when he took me to the eye doctor to be fitted for my first pair of glasses. Later on I went to an optometrist near the house but money was tight then so I assume Dad knew a guy in town where he could get a deal. Dad seemed to always ‘know a guy’.

It was the first time I ever remember taking a train into the City. Although I could not tell you exactly where the building was, I recall the office did not have windows. I had no choice in the frames picked for me; Dad simply got me the same black horned rimmed ones that he and all three of my older brothers wore. Sadly, it was not till I was heading into High School that I realized I did not have to look like a dork-a-saurus and could get somewhat contemporary glasses that I actually chose.

After leaving the eye doctor’s office that day, we did something that has never happened before or since. Dad and I alone went to a nearby pizza parlor for lunch. He ordered a big meatball parmesan sub sandwich and gave me a third. Sure, I’d been to pizzerias before but I had never eaten anything like that. It was decadently great and as a guilty pleasure, I still love them. That amazing cheese dripping hero did not make up for having to wear glasses, but it helped make that day a lot better.

elementdan

BESPECTACLED AND STYLING….’ Still wearing em’ in 6th grade!

Posted in it is what it is | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

CAPT FRICK, CAPT FRACK AND THE BOATLOAD OF BARE HOUSE MEMORIES

Capt. Frick and Capt Frack. That is what my Dad and his lifelong buddy George called themselves after they purchased an old 24 ft outboard motorboat. They named it the Andrea Doria II, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous ocean liner that sank. I might have been only 14 years old, but I still clearly remember feeling the occasional spray of the warm Gulf Of Mexico water on my face while sitting in the back of the boat with my eyes closed tightly behind my cluelessly out of fashion horn-rim glasses. I was daydreaming about the adults not being there. Just me behind the wheel impressing some mythical girl so much that she most certainly would demand we both lose our virginity together right then and there.

Not so surprisingly, that never happened. Mostly I just sat uncomfortably in the sun as we circled Sanibel Island.  Surrounded by people, I still felt alone and desperately embarrassed because, being under 18, they made me wear a life jacket along with George’s seven and five-year-old. Despite all that, the once every few months trip out on the boat was still a nice diversion from my normal life.

But that was over 40 years ago. Time bends and warps. Days go slow but years fly.  Capt. (George) Frack has passed away and his kids are grown with their own children. I did eventually lose my virginity and I didn’t even need a boat to impress her into participating.   At the time, I would have assumed the boat memory was disposable and the virginity-loss of monumental importance, but time has proved the opposite to be true. I remember the boat ride crisply while the details of my awkward teenage dalliances have faded into the blur of my life’s memories and experiences.  What sticks is unpredictable to me.

I distinctly remember after we got home from dinner out, Dad going straight to his office to tinker for the rest of the night. Meanwhile Mom and I sat at the kitchen table with a deck of cards to pick up where we left off on our ongoing game of cut-throat 500 rummy.  That same thing happened dozens of times during my decade after college when I lived 25 minutes from my folks. Nothing special ever happened yet for some reason those evenings are crystal clear in my mind. Over the sound of flipping cards, we chatted and groused, solving all the problems of the universe. When Mom was dealt bad cards, she said “this isn’t a hand, it’s a foot” but it really did not matter who won. We were just enjoying the each other’s company for the evening, only stopping when Dad called from the other room to show off to me what he was working on. How can that already be 30 years ago?

After my niece’s wedding in Connecticut, my sister and I hatched a plan to head down to New York City with our respective partners for a dinner in Chinatown and a nostalgic drive through our old neighborhood. As we stood outside the house we grew up in, my Wife commented that the stark two-story shapeless brick building looked like a factory. It kinda did. Over the years, all the front yard foliage had been removed and it lost its homey personality.

Gone was the big climbable tree that reached past Arthur’s second floor window and its surrounding patch of lush green lily of the valleys. The tall evergreen hedges that flanked the house, the thick bush next to the front door where Ellen hid her Bazooka gum comics, Mom’s big thorny rose bush and that stubborn dogwood with its elusive blooms had all been removed too.  The barren house front was now only broken up by the ugly box air conditioners that now poked out of several windows punctuating the industrial look. It was no longer my home. But it hadn’t been for many decades. Hell, that trip to reminisce in the old neighborhood was 12 years ago.

My jumble of mixed memories and the racing speed of time weigh on me, as I realize there is nothing I can do about being closer to retirement than grade school. But I keep chugging along creating new memories as I go. And I wonder which ones will stick and which will fade as I careen into old age.

glendale

Posted in it is what it is | Leave a comment

CHILLY CHEEKS

As I stepped into the warm entryway, small frozen chunks of snow flaked off my bulky coat quickly melting onto the faded multi-color towel stretched out on the floor just inside the front door.  So many of my childhood memories are vague or lost, yet I clearly remember coming home frosty-faced and chilled after sleigh riding with my older brother and sister in the fresh fallen snow. As if it were yesterday, I recall my freezing red cheeks tingling as the inside heat made them feel like they were melting.

Mom would immediately shuttle us kids straight down to the one room in the basement with an unfinished concrete floor. There, next to the two green metal storage closets full of Boy Scout camping gear, the rope clotheslines and huge black steel heating oil storage tank, Mom made us strip off our dripping boots, hats, gloves and soggy outerwear, down to our long-johns, undershirts and socks. Than we ran up the 3 ½ flights of stairs to our bedrooms to slip on toasty dry clothes. And maybe I’m making up this last part, but I can almost remember heading back down to the kitchen for some hot cocoa afterwards to warm us up inside as well. Although that could just be my mind embellishing a bit on reality.

By the time my age hit double digits, snowy winter days in the city had stopped being the stuff of storybook winter wonderlands. Snow storms brought out all sorts of new and creative craziness to fear.  Packs of neighborhood kids would snowball attack passing cars or throw ice chunks off the bridge onto the Interborough Parkway, while teenagers would grab the rear bumpers of the city buses and get pulled down icey Myrtle Ave. It felt like the snow gave everyone a license to have a free for all.

I recall running home from school the long-way around the block to avoid the older bullies like Johnny Mittendorf, who could chuck a rock-hard snowball into the back of a kid’s head with the accuracy of a major league pitcher firing a flaming fast ball into the catcher’s mitt. At least that was better than when they would tackle you into a snow pile and mash your face into the slushy yellow patches.

Luckily, I moved to Miami while I was in Junior High, where things were warmer, calmer and I never feared being hit with a ‘sandball’ at the beach. As an adult I have lived in Florida and Texas big chunks of my life, but I have also spent winters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago, Connecticut and other places way too cold for human beings. Yet when my cheeks get red and frozen, I always flashback to my earliest years in New York.

Last week my wife and I went on a trip to Iceland. I’m not sure how smart going to a place with ‘Ice’ in its name is in January, but we were on a quest to photograph the Northern Lights and assumed visiting when there was 4 1/2 hours between sunrise and sunset would maximize our chances. Our assumptions were wrong, but we still got lucky.

We prearranged a nighttime boat ride to Videy Island, a few miles off the coast and away from the city lights of Reykjavik. Maybe it was the heavy winds and rain that caused the other six scheduled people to not show up, but we were really happy when our guide said that night ‘the three of us would be the only living people’ on the uninhabited home of a handful of  historic 18th century structures and the more recently built John Lennon/Yoko Ono Imagine Peace Tower.

When the small boat docked, we walked in the bitter-cold freezing wind past the archeological site of the ‘Father Of Reykjvic’, Skuli Magnusson’s 12th century home and the second oldest standing church in the country, over to the far side of the island.  There, in the pouring rain, we set up the camera tripods waiting for the fast blowing low clouds to pass. Eventually it cleared up for a spell. We snapped as many pictures as possible before the next band of clouds blocked the stars and started dropping heavy wet snow and sleet on us.

After an hour or so in the cold, we were happy our guide had a key to one of the few houses on the island, where she said we could warm up and have a cup of hot chocolate before the boat ride back to town. Stepping into the door I shook my arms and watched some of the snow chunks drop to the floor and felt my frozen cheeks start to thaw.

Even though I was physically standing in an absolutely remarkable spot, on a different continent, in a different world, I suddenly was back thousands of miles and fifty years to my childhood home.  Stepping through the old front door onto the faded multi-color towel, waiting for Mom to shoo us down to the basement.

blog cheeks

Posted in it is what it is | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

DRINKING MILK WITH REN, STIMPY, JOE, JACK AND MEL

My brain does not always remember I am getting older but most days I stumble over one or two little reminders. I recently quoted a line from the once-considered cutting-edge cartoon, Ren And Stimpy, to a younger co-worker and got that blank look stare as if I had asked for spare needles for my Victrola so I could listen to some 78s.

Time plays games in my head. That show came out almost a decade before that kid was born. Kid?!?!? When did a married twenty-one-year-old parent of two become a ‘kid’ in my head? Heavens to Betsy, even the gibble-gabble piffle in this daddy-o’s noggin is dated flumadiddle.

The other morning, I again was reminded of the vast number of years I’ve already existed. It all started when I was pouring milk into my bowl of soy protein and corn flour grain-less low-carb breakfast cereal. Standing there all stiff and achy from a normal nights sleep, it hit me that although it says ‘milk’ on the label, the liquid I was sloshing onto my fake cereal was fake milk. I know… I’m dancing in a chemical world again; using tons of ‘low’ this and ‘lite’ that because I am trying to lose ‘L’ – ‘B’s.

You see, for dietary purposes, I previously replaced cow’s milk with soy milk but the soy stuff had a funk to it. Not the good 1970s music ‘funk’ but a scary soy smelly old sock ‘funk’. So I had switched to almond milk, but then a friend badgered me about it taking a zillion gallons of precious water to grow one almond (or something like that). So I replaced my almond milk with cashew milk.

Look, I am no expert on this, all I know is the grocery store has a wall of stuff called milk, that’s not really milk, but somehow I’ve rationalized I am saving the planet and losing weight by drenching my flavorless faux flakes with ground cashew juice. But all that balderdash has nothing to do with why I was reminded of my age.

I’d started reading the chemical concoction of ingredients on that faux milk container when I had a flashback to when I was little and just drank simple real whole milk. Way back when skim tasted watered down and Saturday morning cartoon ads brainwashed us to thinking we would grow up strong-boned and muscly if we chugged gallons of the white stuff.

Standing there I could almost hear the little poof of a minuscule spark popping within a tiny synapse buried deep in the memory center of my brain. A far, far ancient recollection crept out from the dim cob-webbed recesses and slipped into the front of my brain.

Glass milk bottles.

When I was really little we had glass milk bottles. Not from the store, but delivered to the house. Slipped into the metal box on our doorstep by a Milk Man. OK, now I am really feeling ancient. I should stop at the Rex-All for 2-bits of rock candy from the glass jar on the counter before I take the trolley to the 10cent matinee moving pictures. Crap. I’m turning into my parents. Or worse… into my Grandparents. Maybe I need to check my closet to see if when I was not looking my wardrobe become shiny white shoes, plaid Sansabelt slacks, floral polyester shirts and bright colored sports jackets with metal buttons.

My siblings and I would laugh at my Mom when she would attempt to relate to us by saying some incredibly dated catchphrase. Yet my Ren and Stimpy line was no more current than Mom singing ‘Three Little Fishes’ to us or ‘Winchester Cathedral’ to her great-grandkids.

Although Mom’s dated musings have helped me. At 16, I was able to win over the respect of Sy, a very old coworker at my first real job, by catching his 40 year-old references to Joe Penner’s line ‘You wanna buy a duck’ and the Jack Benny / Mel Blanc ‘Si, Cy Sue’ routine.

Nowadays as I use my lightning-fast gazillion-gigabyte cellphone/computer to check that my smart-home’s garage door is closed, it hits me that as much as I advance and adapt I cannot change the fact that I am, and will forever be, of my era.

Raised in the pre-computer days of wall-mounted rotary dial telephones with seven-digit phone numbers that started with two letters and remote-less black and white televisions that broadcasted only a handful of stations that went off the air at night, I constantly forget to remember my place. And after fighting it for so many years, I think I’m finally okay turning into my parents. They seemed to do pretty darn alright. Now if I can just hold off turning into my Grandparants for a little while longer…

for blog
Posted in it is what it is | 1 Comment